Diana Levy is the chief secret agent behind Undercover Snacks, a family-owned snack company specializing in chocolate-covered quinoa crips. Read on to learn all about this innovative business.
As a health-conscious chocoholic and mom of three daughters, Diana developed the concept for the business in her kitchen. After the snacks began to gain popularity in stores, her husband, Michael, joined Undercover Snacks as Chairman. They grew to a 14,000 square foot state-of-the-art factory that is in a dedicated gluten-free and nut-free facility.
I originally had a small chocolate business, where I created chocolates for events and a few retail stores. When two of my three daughters were diagnosed with celiac disease in 2016, I decided to create a healthier, better-for-you snack using the same premium chocolate that I had been using for my confections. I had to ensure it was gluten-free and made with simple allergy-friendly ingredients. After experimenting with tons of ingredients, I ultimately developed the perfect combination: crispy quinoa lightly coated in premium chocolate. Not only was it gluten-free, but it was also insanely delicious, satisfying, high in protein and nutrients, and relatively low in sugar and calories.
Michael had worked on the finance end of the food business for many years, and I had experience running a small business. Still, neither of us had run a food manufacturing company, much less a chocolate factory. So until we were big enough to hire manufacturing workers and a mechanic, the two of us often came home covered from head to toe in chocolate after a day spent panicking over how to work the equipment. Fortunately, we figured it all out, but I have had to do everything from climb inside a chocolate tank (not filled at the time) to fix a chiller on the roof in a snowstorm to get the job done.
Michael and I always joked about running a business together one day, but we never thought it would happen. When I first decided to re-enter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom for many years, my goal was to start my own business in an area that Michael knew well so I could leverage his years of financial expertise and business contacts. I quickly zeroed in on a bunch of chocolate companies he had helped to sell. I took chocolate classes and started a small business, working to make it big enough for him to join me. At first when Michael began helping me, his main focus was on his financial business. Over time he has become completely involved in building every aspect of Undercover with me.
I was actually surprised that working together was a little bit tricky at first. While Michael and I could intuitively run our family and household without discussing the breakdown of who did what, it was a little bit different in a business. Eventually, we learned to discuss responsibilities and how to tag-team when things would get really crazy. We have complementary strengths in running the business, and while our brains work differently, we are completely aligned on our goals, which makes it really easy to move quickly and make big decisions. We also both have a solid work ethic – and genuinely love being on this journey together.
I can’t imagine having anyone else as my partner in this business, but what’s even more exciting is that our oldest daughter, Arielle, who is 23, works with us full time in Marketing and Sales. She handles all of our social media, influencer relationships, and community marketing. In addition, she helps at trade shows, and we know we can count on her wherever she is needed.
Jenna and Elana (19-year-old twins) just finished their sophomore year in college. I don’t know if either of them will work full-time for Undercover, but they are both fully engaged in the business. They have done demos, worked as brand ambassadors, helping at trade shows, and even come into the factory to help with packaging when we have been in a bind.
My family always comes first, no matter what. However, I really think it is important for my daughters to be self-sufficient and independent. Of course, I am there when they need me, but I also encourage them to figure things out independently.
Michael and I feel like the business is our baby. We love it and end up pretty consumed by it. If we are not actually sitting by a computer, talking about it feels more like fun than work. Arielle is pretty much in on the adventure with us and fairly obsessed with the business too. We try not to talk about the business when the other two are around, so we don't drive them crazy.
When I first launched Undercover, my kids were all teenagers, and I think that was the perfect age to witness and really understand what it took to grow a business. The girls all saw me running around the kitchen day after day, trying to develop a product. They saw me sitting with spreadsheets, trying to make the nutrition profile work, and creating recipe after recipe.
As the business grew, the girls began to respect the idea that hard work and perseverance can pay off. If you work relentlessly hard, you really can make something out of nothing. Watching Undercover Snacks grow has also enabled them to think more about their own goals, dreams, and values. I hope that seeing me launch a new business at age 50 has permitted them to take risks and know that they don’t have to know exactly what they want to do with their lives in their twenties.